Children's hospital cost could yet rise by up to €50m
The cost of building the new national children's hospital could escalate by up to €50m - leaving the Exchequer to find the bulk of €700m needed to allow the long-awaited facility to open in 2020.
An Bord Pleanala gave the green light to build the state-of-the-art facility at the St James's site, allowing construction on the biggest health project in the history of the State to finally begin later this year.
It will see the merging of the three existing hospitals in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght, which are currently struggling to provide modern healthcare to the country's sickest children in outdated and cramped facilities.
But John Pollock, project director for the new hospital which was yesterday granted planning permission, said the full cost would not be known until August or September when tenders for its construction are finalised.
"We have advised government we will certainly need €650m and maybe another €40m to €50m.
"When the tenders are in we will go back to the government and say definitively we know how much it will cost."
Already, €450m has been pledged from the Exchequer, with €200m coming from the sale of the National Lottery.
The planning permission, which can be appealed by way of judicial review in eight weeks, sets out 17 conditions.
The merging of three hospitals in one building could possibly put some backroom jobs at risk in order to avoid overlapping of services with the possibility of voluntary redundancies.
However, Health Minister Leo Varadkar insisted yesterday he did not seen that happening and there were four years to do workforce planning.
He also said: "Short of an asteroid hitting . . . the hospital should be built by 2020."
A spokeswoman for the development board said the hospital would create "new opportunities" for several hundred jobs when it opens.
During the construction phase it is estimated 2,300 jobs will be created locally.
The hospital, which was first mooted in 1993, has been beset with stumbling blocks and was originally turned down for planning at the Mater site.
Mr Varadkar said yesterday the decision by An Bord Pleanala also meant that two satellite clinics can also go ahead.
These will be linked to the hospital, where children who need accident and emergency and some outpatient care will be treated.
The centres which will be located at Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital are due to open in 2018.
The first sod for the new hospital is expected to be turned this summer when the preparatory construction gets under way.
The bricks and mortar phase is expected to start at the end of the year with a number of developers, including international companies, bidding for the work.
The advantage of being on the St James's Hospital site is that children can benefit from specialities in the adult service in areas, such as cancer care.
Some 675 parking spaces at St James's have been set aside for patients and visitors.
The new children's hospital in figures
€650m - Cost of new campus, including €450 exchequer funding and €200M from the sale of the national lottery
118,113 - The floor area in square metres
53 - Number of beds in on-site accommodation units for families
675 - Car spaces for families of children
380 - Single in-patient rooms. 93 day care beds, 18 operating theatres and 60 intensive care beds
16-18 - Age at which children with life-long medical conditions can transfer to St James's adult hospital
2020 - Expected date of opening, with construction to begin later this year
Why St James's Hospital eventually won out
The St James's Hospital site as a location for the new national children's hospital offers the best "connectivity," according to An Bord Pleanala.
There is no other public healthcare site as well served by public transport as St James's, said planning inspector Tom Rabbette.
The planning permission to build the seven-storey children's hospital was granted but with 14 conditions attached.
There will be 675 car parking spaces for families and visitors.
Plans to limit the use of private cars to those using the new National Children's Hospital are ambitious but achievable, he insisted. Several opponents of the St James's site had concerns about the problems faced by parents bringing children to and from the hospital by car.
Mr Rabbette said that while the new development could potentially affect local road traffic, the measures to alleviate this could keep it at "acceptable levels."
Tallaght and Connolly to act as 'satellite centres'
Satellite centres in Tallaght Hospital and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown will be linked to the main hospital.
They will provide accident and emergency care with no overnight stay. They can also house outpatient clinics.